Some Melinda Bula art quilt, with a naturalistic subject, bring to mind the wonderful floral paintings of Dutch Masters, created between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These paintings strongly inspired the work of Melinda.
Melinda Bula – Renaissance
Jan Van Huysum
Jan Van Huysum
When did you start making quilts and art quilts?
I made my first quilt when was 18 years old. I had a job in a fabric store and loved to watch the instructors teach their classes. It was back in 1974 and the fabric colors where horrible. One day the shop received this beautiful fabric from England called Liberty of London. The colors where beautiful and it was very expensive so I could only buy a small amount of it but I wanted to make my first quilt with that fabric because of the colors!
When I was 19, I went to college and studied art while still working in the fabric store. I started to make conceptual art pieces with found objects from the fabric store. I would use fabric in my art and sew some of my pieces. I have always incorporated fabric and sewing in my art.
What was your first quilt ?
That first quilt was not made very well. I hand-pieced it and hand-quilted it but my stitch length was very large. I had no idea what I was doing. Years later my son found that quilt and cuddled in it for years until it fell apart. But my 2nd quilt I have a picture of. It was the double wedding ring, again pieced by hand. I have never finished it but still enjoy showing it to my students!
When did you show a quilt for the first time? On what occasion?
I joined a quilt guild when I moved to Northern California in 1997. This group of women were very creative and I saw they were pushing art into their quilts and I started designing my own quilt designs. They were hand-appliqued and pieced with lots of color. I fell in love with applique.
I entered a quilt into our local quilt guild show and won an honorable mention ribbon. I was thrilled. My techniques were still a little rough because I was self-taught. I was encouraged by my quilting friends to put that quilt into another show in San Francisco, where it won 3rd place. Then I entered it into a big American Quilt Society (AQS) show and was shocked to receive a letter from Quilters Newsletter Magazine saying they wanted to feature it in their magazine! I thought this was crazy because my quilting techniques were still very amateurish, but my design and color use was strong. You just never know!
What moment of processing a quilt you prefer? The design, the choice of fabrics, the realization
I love to find the inspiration, whether it’s in a photo, movie, or personal experience and just immerse myself in it. The whole creative process thrills me, especially the colors. Color is the spark that lights my imagination and pushes me through the hard parts. And there are plenty of hard parts. When I got the inspiration for Monterey at Dusk, the sun was setting and the sky was pink. Could I capture this moment? I was snapping my cameras fast as I could. A lady walked up to me and said she had been watching me and told me that I couldn’t take it with me. Oh, yes I can! I went home and worked nonstop for 4 weeks on that quilt. The color of the sky and her words motivated me. And I did capture that moment. So I guess when someone says you can’t, I say I can! That’s me!
Monterey at Dusk
Are there fabrics and colors that you love to use more?
I love all fabrics and cottons are my favorite but it’s all about the right color. I now hand-dye my fabrics to get just the right color. I need my fabric to have the slightly mottled look that you can only get with a hand-dye. Solids won’t work for the look I am trying to achieve. I want it to look, from across the room, as if I painted my quilt, although there is NO paint in any of my quilts-it’s all fabric and thread, so I need a lot of value in my colors.
What is your quilt you love most and that represents you?
Flowers and water represent me. Flowers because they have the most beautiful colors in the world and water because I’ve grown up by the beach and it calms my mind. If I had topick favorites, it would be Social Climber Roses and Monet in Pasadena
Social Climber Roses
Which technique do you prefer?
I love to do my fusible applique. When I want to create and paint I go to the studio and make my Fabulous Fusible Quilts. The fusible web I use is sticky (Steam-A-Seam2) so that when I iron it to the back of my fabrics and then cut out my shapes, I can place (stick) them to my background fabrics without having to iron it in place until I get my composition just the way I want it and then I iron it all in place. I can layer it (many layers) and still sew through it. I visualize that my scissors are my paint brush and the fusible fabrics are my paints.
When everything is in place and ironed, I then add the sketching with my thread technique I call Renegade Thread Play.
Renegade Thread Play blends all the fusible fabrics and colors together while I am quilting. I’ve been using black fabrics on the back of my quilts and multiple thread colors so you can see the thread painting that is happening on the front on the back of the quilt, as well. Pictures of Fresh As A Daisy, front and back.
Tell us about your fusible Fabulous flowers quilts.
When I started this I wanted to work with color. What has the best color Flowers! It all started with a photo of roses and a package of Steam-A-Seam2, the fusible web I use. A local quilt shop gave me a package of this fusible web and asked me to figure out what to do with it so I started to play around with it. It was sticky and allowed me to layer fabric as you would layer paint. I was going to paint the roses in fabrics instead of paint with this new fusible web. Right away, I found I did not have enough fabrics in the right colors to achieve the neededvalues for a realistic image. It took me about a year of experimenting with the process before I was brave enough to show my friend at the quilt guild what I had done, since fusing was not what REAL quilters do! The day I was finally brave enough to show my group, I started teaching. I love to teach, design flower patterns, share my color sense with my students, and hopefully inspire them on their creative journeys.